Although there had been signings and contract renewals previously, tying Michael Morrison down to a new two-year deal at the start of the summer was arguably the first time Charlton’s current owners had shown a bit of backbone.
While Dorian Dervite, Ben Hamer and Diego Poyet had all departed, having been left frustrated by two separate ownerships failing to offer them contracts quickly enough, Morrison was kept in SE7 amidst rumours that Ipswich Town were attempting to pinch the 26-year-old.
And at a time when most Addicks were still incredibly uneasy with Roland Duchatelet et al, the vice-captain’s words encouraged supporters.
“It’s taken a long time but the club have always said they want to keep me and I really wanted to stay and go into a new era which I think is going to be successful,” said the centre back.
At the time, there was no question that keeping Morrison would be hugely important to any prospects of success, with the almost ever-present defender seen as part of a core of players from which Bob Peeters can build his side around.
In turn, Morrison expected, and was probably promised in order to convince him to stay at The Valley, to be one of the first names on Charlton’s teamsheet.
Such an expectance wasn’t arrogance or complacency, it was deserved. Morrison had been a loyal servant and a consistent performer over his three seasons as an Addick, and few Charlton fans weren’t placing him in their starting XIs as the season approached.
Alas, almost four months into the current campaign and things haven’t quite gone to plan for Morrison. Only two appearances have been made in the league, with Peeters persistently placing his faith in Andre Bikey and Tal Ben Haim.
It’s left the no longer clean shaven Morrison cutting a frustrated figure during pre-match warm ups. You can sense a real desire to prove his worth, and a constant disappointment that his efforts in training haven’t been enough to force his way into the side.
In other words, Morrison’s unhappiness that has led to his loan move to Birmingham City isn’t simply a case of sulking, but that he would so desperately like to contribute to a team he clearly appreciates.
In some regards, that loan move is beneficial to all parties. Peeters gets an unhappy player off his hands, Morrison gets game time and the signing of Oguchi Onyewu means Charlton’s already small squad hasn’t lost a number.
In others, it highlights how poorly Morrison has been treated in the past few months. The unhappiness he feels has been forced upon by the club doing everything to keep him, and then not offer him a chance to play as much as he should do.
I’m not sure I would particularly go along with this thought, because at the time Morrison would have surely been a key player, but it’s almost as if the new contract was purely a way of appeasing fans who had seen a number of other cult favourites leave.
The performances of Bikey and Ben Haim have made it hard for Morrison to get a look in, but such have been the displays Morrison has put in for the Addicks over the past few years, he arguably had enough credit in the bank to be a starter from the off. While football doesn’t always work in such a way, I’d suggest Morrison should have been given the chance to prove his worth in the starting XI.
At the very least, while I know this isn’t an opinion universally shared, Ben Haim has been very error prone in my eyes in recent weeks, and I would have liked to have seen Morrison come into the side.
Instead, we’re left with an unfit Joe Gomez, a player who couldn’t get a game in League Two in Harry Lennon, and Oneywu, who will need time to get some sharpness and fitness himself.
And the fact he has been so readily replaced Onyewu doesn’t sit right with me either.
Of course, from a purely practical sense, replacing Morrison with an international defender is excellent business.
But I feel Morrison deserves better than to be farmed out and immediately forgotten. It’s a difficult judgement to make, but I’d say Morrison is a better player than Onyewu, and that’s without considering the added factors of loyalty and such like, which are important considerations as much as some would like to suggest otherwise.
If Ben Haim or Bikey suffer injury or suspension, is Morrison recalled to then sit on the bench again?
I hope that isn’t the case, and I’m hopefully this is merely a stop gap measure to allow the Charlton stalwart some game time to come back a stronger player.
Having had a series of hopeless defenders before Morrison, I’ve thoroughly appreciated his efforts as an Addick, and if he has played his last game for the club, then I’ll remember him incredibly fondly. Both his excellent ability as a centre back and his always impassioned responses to a Charlton goal will be missed.
Unfortunately, with Peeters clearly not a fan, I do get the impression Morrison’s days are numbered. Incredibly odd considering how important renewing his contract was to the club.
Good business? Probably. Good news purely form an on-the-pitch side of things? Debatable, but there are benefits. The right way to go about things? Not particularly.
Michael Morrison is an excellent centre back first, a Charlton stalwart second and, above all, someone who has deserved better.